Getting a divorce is not just difficult for parents and children, but it often also makes it hard for grandparents to maintain a close relationship with their grandchildren and can even result in a completely severed relationship. So, this article will focus on grandparent's visitation rights in the state of California.
First and very important, grandparents need to know:
- You don't need a court order to visit your grandchildren;
- Parents can always choose to allow grandparents visitation with their children.
Family courts are a last resort for those families that can't resolve their disagreements on their own. However, for those situations where parents won't allow visitation, grandparents need to take time to educate themselves on their rights in the state of California.
California family laws provide courts clear guidelines to make sure divorcing parents maintain involvement in the well-being of their children, but they don't apply to grandparents.
If you are a grandparent and have reasonable concerns about the well-being of your grandchildren, then contact a California family law attorney to review your rights and options.
To give readers a better understanding about grandparents' rights in California, our Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys are providing a review below.
How Can I Get Visitation with My Grandchild?
This statute states that the court has the discretion to grant reasonable visitation rights to another person who has interest in the welfare of the child.
A grandparent is obviously considered a “person having an interest in the welfare of the child” because they are related to them.
Under California law, grandparents can request reasonable visitation with their grandchildren. However, in order to grant their request, the family law court must consider the following:
- If there was a preexisting relationship with such as strong bond between grandparent and grandchild that granting visitation would be in the best interest of the grandchild; and
- Balance the best interests of the child in having a relationship with their grandparents with the rights of parents who are the primary decision makers over their child.
If the family court judge determines there is a strong enough bond with your grandchild, they will normally grant the visitation request based on the child's best interest.
Can I File for Visitation Rights While Parents Are Still Married?
Normally, grandparents can't file a petition for visitation rights while the parents are still legally married, but there are a few exceptions, including when:
- parents are separated and living in different homes;
- a parent is missing and their location is unknown for at least one month;
- one parent also petitions the court with grandparents to allow visitation;
- one parent is incarcerated or involuntarily committed to an institution;
- the child doesn't live with their parents;
- the child was adopted by a stepparent.
It should be noted that if you are granted visitation rights based on one of the circumstances above, they are not permanent rights.
If one of the situations no longer applies, the parent can request the family law court to terminate your visitation rights.
Can I Get Permanent Custody of My Grandchild in California?
There are situations where a grandparent can petition for permanent custody of a grandchild. However, the California family law court will need to see solid evidence that such a decision would be in the best interest of the child.
As a grandparent, you will need to prove the some of the following factors:
- The child's health and safety are currently in danger;
- One of both parents are abusing or neglecting the child;
- One or both parents have a drug or alcohol addition;
- Physical abuse by parents;
- A parent's mental illness;
- The child is a victim of domestic violence;
- A parent is deemed unfit and the other cannot or will not take the child;
- Both parents agreed to giving the grandparent custody;
- Any other relevant reasons why immediate action is necessary.
If you can persuade the family court judge that granting you custody is in the child's best interest, then the court could terminate parental rights and award you custody.
Keep in mind that California family courts will typically strongly protect parental rights. If one of the parents refuses to allow you visitation, then you will be required to prove your position.
If other family members want the child, then the grandparents might not get custody. The family law court considers many different factors when making child custody decisions, but the needs of the child are their primary concern.
How Can I Ask the Court for Grandparent Visitation in California?
You need to know that a California family law court won't automatically grant a grandparent any visitation rights with their grandchildren. You will be required to file a petition with the family court requesting grandparent visitation rights.
In a situation where a family law case between the parents was already filed with the California family court, such as a divorce, then:
- You can just join that case in order to request grandparent visitation rights.
However, if a family law case between divorcing parents was not opened, then:
- You have to open a case with the family law court by filing a petition requesting grandparent visitation rights.
This means you will be starting a new case with the family court. However, you need to know there is not an official form to petition the court for grandparent visitation.
This means you should seek the assistance of an experienced family law lawyer to draft a petition and represent you're interest for the grandparent visitation case.
Contact a Los Angeles Family Law Attorney for Help with Grandparent Visitation
If you are a grandparent and have reason to believe your grandchildren are not cared for properly, then you should consult with a family law attorney to review options.
Our California Certified Family Law Specialists have experience protecting the rights of grandparents in Los Angeles County.
We need to first review all the details in order to determine the best course of action to secure visitation rights. Obviously, the best option is to reach an agreement with the parents to visit your grandkids without court intervention.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys who represent clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Ventura County, Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, Brentwood, South Bay, Simi Valley, and the San Fernando Valley.
Our law office is located at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (818) 528-3471.